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Chase ends in fiery wreck

Police and firefighters inspect a vehicle involved in a fatal wreck and fire on Thursday, July 21, 2016, after an apparent police chase that ended at Riverview Boulevard and Edna Street. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

ST. LOUIS • Chris Miles’ mother spent Friday morning taking her son’s dental records to the medical examiner as a means to identify him.

Miles was one of two men killed Thursday afternoon in a fiery crash on Riverview Boulevard that started with a police pursuit.

Family of the second man identified him as Darnell “Scoop” Brown, 25, from Pine Lawn. Friday night, some of them gathered at the crash scene for a candlelight vigil, where leaves of nearby trees were charred by the flames from the day before. 

Durwon Murrow, a cousin of Brown, was among them. He described Brown as an friendly, helpful person.  

"He was the type of person who brought people together," he said. "We wanted to show him how much people really cared about him."

Miles and Brown were friends, family said.

Miles, 23, was from unincorporated St. Louis County, between Dellwood and Castle Point.

“He was a very outgoing person,” Miles’ sister Christina said Friday morning. “He just got caught up in the wrong stuff.”

Family declined to comment further Friday afternoon after the medical examiner’s office was able to confirm Miles’ identity.

Court records show Miles was on probation for burglary, attempted threat and resisting arrest.

St. Louis County Police made it clear in a news conference Thursday afternoon that they knew of both men, along with two others, who allegedly posted a live video on social media Monday displaying multiple handguns inside a Chevy Impala. Police apparently saw the car Monday, but couldn’t pull it over before they parked and went inside.

Police later identified the men and car, creating a bulletin for “officer safety, based on the number of guns” in the video, Sgt. Shawn McGuire said.

At 2:20 p.m. Thursday, police spotted the car for the first time since Monday in Jennings. When the two men got into the car, county police initiated a traffic stop about 2:50 p.m.

St. Louis police are investigating the actual crash that happened after the pursuit. The crash was reported just before 3 p.m. in the 1000 block of Riverview Boulevard near the intersection with Edna Street.

The dark-colored Chevrolet Impala drove the wrong way onto the Halls Ferry Road circle before driving north in the southbound lanes of Riverview, hitting an oncoming vehicle head-on.

The cars caught on fire, killing both men and injuring the driver of a GMC Yukon who was in critical but stable condition.

Antoine Roberson witnessed the crash from the front lawn of his home. 

"I was horrified," he said Friday. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing - this only happens in movies."

Police wouldn’t say what happened in the video that prompted the bulletin other than the flourishing of guns. They wouldn’t say what happened during or after the attempted traffic stop that led to a police pursuit. They also wouldn’t indicate whether there were guns in the Impala that Miles and the other male died in, nor whether they were looking for the other two men seen in the social media video.

It’s all under investigation.

“I do want the public to know that every single incident like this is investigated internally — it goes all the way up to the chief,” McGuire said Thursday. “Everybody looks at this. This is a big deal. Obviously when fatalities are involved, it’s sad.”

McGuire did confirm the pursuit was approved by a higher-ranking officer, but whether it was “a good pursuit” won’t be clear until the investigation is complete.

St. Louis County policies restrict pursuits to cases in which a suspected felon is considered a greater threat to the public than a pursuit. McGuire said that is true but indicated there are multiple aspects to the department’s policy.

At the vigil, Dominick Green, a childhood friend of Brown's, questioned the police pursuit. He said allegedly showing a gun on a video isn't necessarily a crime.

"For that you do a high speed chase through a residential area?" he said. "I saw him earlier that day, and now he's gone. It's ridiculous." 

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Ashley Jost is the higher education reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.